The Warren Astronomical Society Paper
Volume 33, Number 3 March, 2001

icon Messier Marathon 2001
by Mike Simonsen

The Warren Astronomical Society will be hosting this year's Messier Marathon at Stargate Observatory on the nights of March 23rd and 24th.

Once a year, it is possible to view all the Messier objects in one night if you start at dusk and observe until dawn. Attempting this is indeed a "marathon" observing session. It is quite a challenge to get [continued]

icon Improving Seeing
by Rick Gossett

(Now that you think that I have lost my mind, continuing reading this article will be easy.) Many times we blame our optics(too small) or sky conditions because we have not trained our eyes to see all that the eyepiece is showing us. It is very easy to develop the terrible habit of glancing [continued]

astro chatter Astro Chatter
by Larry Kalinowski

To join or not to join, that is the question. Some members of the society want to keep our affiliation with The League alive. The answer should be based on how much we depend on the League to function. It's true that the League provides recognition to observers when they accomplish one of their observing programs, like observing Messier Objects, NGC objects or lunar observing. However, the society only gets awards for members about once a year, on the [continued]

icon Astronomy Web Sites
by Gary Repella

One of the first things that you notice when you check the internet for astronomy sites is the number of them. Its astronomical. Each sites has links to other sites. You could spend days tracking them all down. [continued]

icon Lunar and Planetary Subgroup Notes
by Riyad Matti

I would like to let the WAS members know that I will be at Stargate observatory on the following days, or weekend closest to these days depending on my other obligations. This list is collected from the A.L.P.O. Lunar web [continued]

icon Members
by Mark Femminineo

icon The SwapShop
by Larry Kalinowski

John Herrgott is selling his Questar 3.5-inch f13 Masutkov-cassegrain fork-mounted equatorial telescope along with several eyepieces and other accessories. The firm price for this excellent telescope is $1700 firm. Email John at johnherrgott@earthlink.net or call him at 810-735-9313. Hurry, this scope will go quickly at this price!

icon Messier Marathon 2001, continued

them all. I haven't been able to do it yet myself, mostly due to uncooperative weather, and I get side tracked doing variable star estimates in between. The first few and the last two or three are the hardest ones because they are hidden in the murk of evening and morning twilight.

Planning is very important. Be sure to have a good set of finding charts made in advance and practice finding as many as you can in the months preceding the marathon. I have included a list that is a good sequence to do them in and includes some other information and tips.

In order to make it to the end, you should be sure to get plenty of rest, dress warmly and bring drinks and snacks to keep your stomach from breaking your concentration.

Regardless of how many you can identify in one night, this can be a lot of fun, especially if you have fellow astronomers to share the night with.

I hope to see clear skies and plenty of observers there this year.

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icon Improving Seeing, continued

instead of observing. Here are a couple of suggestions which will help anyone become a better observer.

First, make sure the optics are collimated. Given the choice between a collimated 4 in. reflector and a poorly collimated 12 in. I'll take the smaller one every time. Also, make sure the optics are clean. Follow the manufacturers instructions explicitly. Don't believe the ones who tell you that a little dust doesn't make a difference, it does, period.

The best object to start with is the moon. At first quarter, it is easily visible past midnight. Wait until the end of twilight and capture an image, digital or photographic does'nt matter. If you do not have the equipment, e-mail me and I will return an attached image. If you don't have an image to use, grab a clipboard, paper and pencil, pick a large crater and start sketching what you see.

The next step begins within the next 48 hours, or within 48 hours of the next quarter moon. Set up your scope, dress warmly, and get comfortable. It is difficult to observe when you are in an uncomfortable position and freezing at the same time. Trust me, I'm certain about this.

Take a good long look at the moon. If you have any filters, use them. I prefer switching between a lunar and a red filter. The lunar filter keeps me from seeing big dots for the rest of the night, and the red deepens the contrast between craters and maria. Grab your photo and pencil and begin looking at specific craters. Start sketching in any shadow detail that the camera was unable to capture. You'll be surprised at how much detail the camera missed. Don't worry about the quality of the sketch, this is about observing. By looking for small changes between the eyepiece and the photo, you are training your eye to sweep the entire field of the eyepiece and hunt for very fine detail.

Once you become confident that you are seeing better, try sketching Jupiter. Look at it for about 15 minutes before the pencil hits the paper, then spend another 15 minutes sketching in the details. I guarantee you that you will probably notice more surface detail that night than any other time you have observed it. Once you have done this, you may go back to some of the old standbys M42, M57, or whatever and see details that you had never noticed before. Therefore, you will have improved your seeing conditions.

You may not be able to improve sky conditions, but you can improve your seeing.

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astro chatter Astro Chatter, continued

average. Awards hardly justify the $400 per year that they cost. Individual members that wish to work for a League award can get it by joining individually as a member-at-large. The other League services, such as publications, jewelry and clothes with emblems, are also available to at-large members. The biggest special interest group we have in the society is the variable star group, and surprisingly, the Leauge doesn't support such a group. So we're back to deciding, what do we get to justify a $400 yearly bill...the Reflector? The League website is available to all, members or not. If you have a question about astronomy or getting started in the hobby, there are now numerous websites out there with just those points of interest on display, including the League site. The problem has been around for a long time. The truth is, the League is structured to help the small, low membership, clubs that develop because of a common interest amoung all the members. When a society grows as large as we have, with varied interests and ages, most of the members enjoy their astronomy from an easy chair. That's why our armchair observer's award became so popular at our club banquets. The League has some serious restructuring to do and it should start with dues. Unfortunately, the League's main concern now is creating a central office which will, no doubt, mean dues increases in the near future. Will we get more for our money? I doubt it.

The planet finding team from the University of California, headed by Geoffrey Marcy, have found more puzzling planets. One discovery is a pair of planets, one huge (seventeen times our Jupiter in size) and the other somewhat smaller (eight times our Jupiter). The discovery was unexpected, of course. Astronomers have been hoping to find more planetary systems like our own solar system but they haven't. New explanations have to be developed to explain why such extremely heavy planets exist and why they're so close to their suns. It looks as though present theories about planetary development are wrong and need quite a bit of change.

Shenzhue II is the name of the Chineese manned space capsule. It spent a few days going around the Earth and made quite a show from what's been reported. It's almost as bright a Mir. Predictions for the satellite have been in the Heavens-Above.com web page. Since the chineese are practicing sending up some humans, there will be more shots and more chances to view that capsule again.

March 6 seems to be the date that the Russians have set to bring down the Mir space station. That hunk of metal should be a pretty sight as it burns its way through the Earth's atmosphere. Hope someone gets a video of the return.

Comet McNaught-Hartley can be seen in the morning sky, now that it has moved farther north. Observers say its about an eight magnitude object, even though the ephemerides I've seen predict sixth magnitude. You can see it as early as four o'clock in the morning, about thirty degrees above the eastern horizon, in the constellation Hercules, if you're inclined to be up at that time. It's not going to get any brighter because the comet has moved past perihelion and is beginning to move farther away from the Earth. See the February issue of Sky and Tel, page 122, for a map.

Another comet is starting to make news. That's Linear C/2000 MW1. It's been sighted about eighty times now, so present ephemerides should be fairly accurate. It's a dim seventeenth magnitude now, but promises to reach 3.9 next year.

Congratulations to Blaine McCullaugh for finishing his thirteen inch mirror (actually 12.875in). It's taken about two years of weekly meetings to do it, now its finally done. Why the odd size? It's a porthole window that was left in the home he bought in Warren. A finished thirteen inch mirror is valued between five hundred and one thousand dollars.

There was a meeting at Frank Spisak's house on January 5. It was mainly to help frank get started with asteroid observing and explain how to use one of the programs he received when he bought a telescope. The meeting turned out so well, that Frank agreed to host the computer meetings on the months Gary Gathen couldn't host them. So now we have an alternate meeting place for the computer group when there are difficulties for our main host.

The February computer meeting, on the 22nd, will be at Gary Gathen's home in Pleasant Ridge, MI. He's located at 21 Elm Park, three blocks south of I-696 and about half a block west of Woodward Ave. The March meeting will be on the 22nd. New visitors will recieve a free planetarium program at the computer meeting. All meetings occur on the fourth Thursday of the month. Exceptions will be announced at the regular WAS meetings or passed along via the Boonhill.net WAS e-mail link.

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icon Astronomy Web Sites, continued

A great place to start is the Astrolinks Page on our own WAS web site. Jeff Bondono has done a fantastic job in setting up this page. It is organized by subject matter and contains a wealth of information. I've narrowed this article toa few of my favorite sites.

If you want to track ISS, HST, Iridium flares, Mir or other satillites, heavens-above.com is a great site. You see not only dates, times, magnitude, azimuth, and altitude; you can also get a star map that will show the path the object will take. If you don't know your latitude of logitude, they have an extensive data base that the coordinates for your city or town. They also have sun and moon information, planet summary data, minor planet data, sky chart, constellation data, and you can track the satillites that have left our solar system.

I just happened upon a live video feed from Kennedy Space Center during the Endeavor mission to the ISS. They were broadcasting the space walk when the astronauts were assembling the solar panels. Two cameras were used, one in Endeavor's cargo bay and the other was a helmet cam. You could also hear the conversation. The site is science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/countdown/video/video.html , you will need a media player and RealPlayer is available free of charge from Progressive Networks.

Interested in the Sun, sohowww.estec.nl is the official site for theSolar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a joint NASA and ESA venture. The pictures are updated every couple of hours. Movies are also available and you can download a free screen saver.

Space.com is a general news site about space related topics. They did have pictures of the ISS taken by the Endeavor crew just after they separated showing the new solar panels. The pictures were a little grainy but they were still spectacular. They did put together a list of the 10 weirdest things in the universe and let the viewers vote for the weirdest. This is a commercial site and does have a lot of advertising. You can get a free T-shirt if you subscribe to their magazine. They also handle Starry Nights software.

If you want Hubble pictures, hubble.stsci.edu and oposite.stcsci.edu/pubinfo/pictures.html are places to go. All the pictures I looked at were excellent.

The February issue of Sky and Telescope has an article on the top astro web sites. I have read the article but have not checked out the sites yet. Maybe that can be my next article.

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icon Lunar and Planetary Subgroup Notes, continued

page. This lunar and planetary subgroup activity will concentrate on observing the moon for a (Lunar Meteor Strike.) Members, without observatory keys, interested in these observing sessions should call me for confirmation to meet at Stargate. My number is (810) 598-5400. Other observations list will follow depending on participation and interest.

Please note that we have no video cameras at the observatory and it would be greatly appreciated if someone can bring a camera to record a possible strike.

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icon Members

New Members for January 2001: W.A.S. Anniversaries for March 2001:
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icon The SwapShop

This column is for those who are interested in buying, trading or selling items. Call 810-776-9720 (larrykalinowski@yahoo.com). if you want to put an item for sale or trade in this section of the WASP. The ad will run for six months. The month and year the ad will be removed, is also shown.
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This page was created by Jeff Bondono, and last changed on February 15, 2001. Modified by Doug Bock on February 20, 2001